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[Page 23]

DAYANIM

The term above was originally applied to judges. The 71 members of the Great Sanhedrin, the 23-member body of the rabbinical court under that, and the three rabbis of the bet din on the lower level were all dayanim. Later on the rabbi's deputy in charge of ritual matters was called a dayan, and his sphere of authority was usually defined by the statutes of the community.

In general, Pápa dayanim served in the three-member rabbinical court, and took turns giving popular lectures at the Shiur Association (in Bet Hamidrash).

The profound learning of these judges or maggids (preachers) of Pápa was often recognized by their being offered rabbinical posts at famous communities. For example,

JÓZSEF KUTNA

the author of several halachic works, and a Pápa dayan until 1830, became the Telek rabbi for 10 years and then served as a rabbi at Tata until his death.

EFRAYIM RAPAPORT

the son of Pápa rabbi Wolf Rapaport, served as a dayan at Pápa and became the rabbi of Torna. He was mentioned in the book by Yehuda Asad.

The collection of responsa by this famous rabbi also contains the name of

MOSHE MORDECHAI PSERHOFER

who was a Pápa dayan, then got the rabbinical post of Fraukirchen [in Hungarian Boldogasszony, one of the Sheva Kehilot – the translator], after which he was chosen to be the rabbi of Szeréd.

The collection of responsa above also mentions Pápa dayan

YITZHAK BODANSZKY

who served in the 1880s.

YISRAEL EPSTEIN

is mentioned in a book published by the Chatam Sofer, the founder of the Pressburg/Pozsony rabbinical dynasty.

The memory of Pápa dayan

RAV MOSHE YOSEF HOFFMAN

is deeply cherished. He was a tzaddik of whom it was said that did not sleep in a bed from one Shabbat to another. He was born in 1843, was a student of the Chatam Sofer, and after 35 years of service at Pápa he left his well-paid job in order to move to Jerusalem at the age of 60. (When he said farewell, he threw his top-hat out of the window of the train, and his wife also threw her hat out , saying they would not need such things anymore.) He lived in the Holy Land until his death, meditating on the Torah day and night. Even at the age of 90, he went to the Kotel every night for the midnight prayer, to ask for the redemption of Zion and for the binyan of the Bet Hamikdash. His memory is commemorated by the Bet Hamidrash founded by him, in one of the buildings in the Batey Ungarim of Jerusalem.

 

Rav Moshe Josef Hoffman

 

MORDECHAI EHRENGRUBER

was the preacher of the Shiur Association at Pápa. From there he went to Varanno, where he headed a large yeshiva and was called the Popener Rav. His book Machalot Yosef was published there.

AVRAHAM STERN

was the son of the secretary of the Stern chevra in Pápa. Avraham became the dayan of Érsekújvár and the author of halachic writings.

AHARON (REB ORE) PRESSBURGER

served at Pápa as Yoshev Ohel, then became the rabbi of Bonyhád and served there until the deportations.

MOSHE LINK

became the rabbi of Nemesszalók after the death of his father-in-law, when he was chosen to be a dayan at Pápa, where he served until his death.

MIHÁLY PRESSBURGER,

the son of a Mattersdorfer/Nagymarton dayan, and the son-in-law of Rav Weinberger of Dunaszerdahely, first served as a rabbi at Erdőbénye, and then became the rabbi's deputy at Pápa, where he worked until the deportations.

 

[Page 26]

BAALEY T'FILAH

By chief chazan Károly Löwy, London

 

Chief chazan Lazar Löwy

 

Grandfather was the first chazan in my life and my most highly valued teacher of chazanut. This is how I remember him: a patriarchal figure, with a flying grey beard, his features possessing an air of noble simplicity, typical of Rembrandt's portraits of rabbis in Amsterdam. He had a natural tenor voice with a very special ring. He was a master of coloratura as well, sounding like pearls.

I always spent school holidays in my grandparents' home and usually stayed with them for the High Holy Days. My grandfather never gave me lessons in chazanut, yet I learnt from him more than from my subsequent teachers. Listening to his performances, to his interpretations of prayer texts was the best training possible. The synagogue of Pápa was an awe-inspiring building, and there were not many provincial communities that could boast of having something as majestic as that. It was built in the style of cathedrals, with a double line of columns and many arches.

When my grandfather was leading the service, his voice seemed to echo from all the corners of the temple, although he never had a choir to accompany him. His melodious voice and correct rhythm created such perfect harmony that his audience felt it was listening to several voices simultaneously.

He served the Pápa community for 40 years and in 1931, the Hungarian Royal Ministry of Education and Culture sent him a letter acknowledging his long and faithful service to the Pápa community. The “chief chazan“, as he was affectionately called, was one of the most popular people in town. When on a Shabbat or a holiday afternoon he put on his white waistcoat with the gold chain, his fashionable coat (ferencjóska) and top-hat, and went for a walk along the Main Street of the town, he was greeted affectionately by all. His admirers shook his hand and expressed their appreciation for his beautiful singing that day.

After the Second World War in 1945, I was chosen to be a chazan in Budapest. Together with Győr chief rabbi Dr. Akiva Eisenberg (now the chief rabbi of Vienna) we were invited for the re-consecration of the synagogue at Pápa. It was painful to enter the temple that had been defiled by the German hordes. Only the bare walls bore witness to the barbaric destruction. It was a terrible sight to see the gap on the eastern wall, instead of the ark with the holy scrolls of the Torah. The once-flourishing community was destroyed to an even greater extent; there were only a few young men left who had survived the terrors of the forced labour camps, and a few women who returned home after suffering in the death camps.

During the re-consecration ceremony, the small number of believers that were left had to sit on simple wooden benches because the benches of the temple had been burnt. The town mayor and the invited church officials of other religions were deeply embarassed, trying in vain to look surprised and innocent. It was a simple ceremony. In a passionate speech, Chief Rabbi Dr. Eisenberg recalled the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, a catastrophe that was caused by groundlesshatred, as the sages said. I recited the Yizkor prayer for the souls of our brethren who had been taken and sanctified the holy name. Sobbing and broken hearted, we left after the sad ceremony which had been interrupted from time to time by gusts of wind, blowing through the gaping holes. Since then the temple has stayed empty. There are no believers.

My grandfather passed away before the Shoah. I will always remember him with feelings of gratitude and admiration.

Besides rabbis and dayanim, chazanim and baalei t'filah also carried out a sacred mission. The melodious voice of

REB YOSEF LEB NEUMANN

was remembered by Pápa old-timers for many years. He served in a puritanical era when the precentor was referred to as a shammash instead of a chazan. The Shammash Neumann – really and truly a shammash, a faithful, zealous and devoted servant of God. It was recorded about him that during his decades of service he never made a mistake when reading from the Torah. Not only was the recital of the text perfect, the cantillation was also strictly according to the tradition.

He was an expert mohel, initiating thousands of Pápa children into the brit of Abraham. In addition, he was an expert sofer, Pápa householders were competing for his beautifully written scrolls.

In the picture (right) you can see three of his martyred grandsons, Vilmos, Zoltán and Hugó Neumann, the observant children of his son Benő Neumann, with their mother.





Among those baalei t'filah who served the community for decades and enjoyed popularity were

VIKTOR SCHIFFER,

who later immigrated to the USA,

DAVID STEIN,

eternally searching for truth, who observed kashrut despite starvation while a prisoner of war in Russia during World War I,
Chazan David Stein














ABRAHAM KRAUSZ,

the warm-hearted jester, and

TZODEK STEIN,

The last chazzan of Pápa,
Tzodek Stein, who starved to
death while on labour service

our last baal t'filah, who literally died of starvation at a forced labour camp.

May these holy baalei t'filah intercede on our behalf in Heavens for Divine favor to send peace upon us and upon all Israel.












[Page 29]

IG. L. MARTON

Iceg Leb Marton was born in the middle of the 19th century in Pápa. He was the first Jew to study at the local Protestant High School (Ref. Kollégium), and he passed his final exams there. It created a sensation when at the 50 years' reunion the former students included a Catholic priest, a Protestant minister, and a rabbi, 'Uncle' Marton.

He received his religious education at the yeshiva of chief rabbi Dr. Salamon Breuer. He started out in business as an accountant at the flour business of the famous community president Adolf Lőwenstein.

When he was appointed by the community to be in charge of the religious education for high school students, he carried out the job with boundless enthusiasm for four decades. Besides being the religious education teacher, he was a real spiritual leader for the Jewish students of the Protestant High School (Ref. Kollegium), of the Benedictine High School (Bencés Gimnázium), of the Girls' Public School (Állami Polgári Leányiskola) and of the Protestant Girls' Educational Institute (Ref. Nőnevelő Intézet). It was his achievement, and also attributed to his influence that his students could participate every Shabbat at 11 a.m. in the youth services he organized.

In the upper grades of the Jewish public school, students received intensive religious education, and were required to participate in the services every day. Uncle Marton's name was legendary. His reach went beyond the youth; he also worked with adults. When he found out that someone had desecrated Shabbat by opening his store, he did not stop arguing zealously until the man closed down the shop.

When Chief Rabbi Moshe Arye Roth got back from the Zionist Congress of Basel and founded in Pápa the first religious Zionist association in Hungary called Chovevei Zion, Uncle Marton became its first secretary. He organized Zionist ceremonies, he himself reciting poems by Morris Rosenfeld, who was very popular at the time.

Later, when the association of Jewish students was founded in Pápa (Pápai Zsidó Diákok Egyesülete), he appeared amongst the circle of his beloved students every Saturday night, lecturing on the Bible.

He remained the president of the Chevra Kadisha until his death at the age of 90. It was justly said that he was the most devoted president of the Chevra ever. Although already 90 years old, bent with age, he was still present at every funeral, taking special care to proceed with the ceremony according to the sacred tradition. He was not only the leader; he himself took an active part, and when he was collecting for charity with the box in his hand, thundering in his familiar voice tzedokoh tatzil mimoves, no eye remained dry.

At Rosh Hashanah he was always the baal t'filah of the big temple. Anyone who heard his sobbing voice reciting Zechor Bris Slichos, would remember it all his life.

A man of integrity and knowledge, he had a nation-wide reputation, and was elected for the 100-member committee of the National Bureau of Orthodox Jewry; for a time he served as the secretary of the committee as well.

He had no sons; one of his daughters was married to the dayan of the Frankfurt orthodox community. His grandson, Shimon Posen, was chosen by the Sopron orthodox community to be their rabbi.

His other son-in-law, Benjamin Buxbaum, was the principal of the Jewish school at Cluj/Kolozsvár. His last years were brightened by the company of his granddaughter Reneé Buxbaum and her husband, chazan Géza Stein.

The memory of this Ish Yehudi Emet will live forever in the heart of his students and devotees.


[Page 31]

AISHET CHAYIL…

Those Pápa women who were the spouses of rabbis, helping their husbands in their work, deserve to be commemorated here:

Nyíregyháza chief rabbi Dr. Béla Bernstein took his wife from the distinguished Korein family.

The wife of Hamburg chief rabbi Dr. Spitzer was the daughter of Nathan Rechnitzer, a talmid chacham and a respectable linen dealer in Pápa.

The spouse of Miskolc chief rabbi Sámuel Austerlitz was the daughter of Pápa chief rabbi Moshe Arye Róth.

R. Posen, the chief rabbi of Frankfurt, married the daughter of religious education teacher I. L. Marton.

Abony rabbi Dr. Andor Klein married Bözsi Schosberger, who died young.

Szabadka chief rabbi Dr. Bernáth Singer married his wife from the Weltner family in Pápa.

Budapest rabbi Zev Eckstein married the daughter Pápa dayan Zvi Eckstein.

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